Being at a distance from something familiar works a treat. And so, several time zones away from home, I could observe the national character during our seasonal marathon of booze, food, dismal telly and jokes, via the online dipstick of Twitter. From this non-scientific evidence, I would urge David Cameron to go to the polls now; the mood is good out there. Irreverent, wholly irreligious and unhealthily besotted by chocolate it may be, but good.
As I was packing stockings for my children on Christmas Eve, (largely supplemented with plastic toy magnets from a useful roadside vendor), Britain was packing itself under the covers, full of delighted anticipation fuelled by the vista of a Bank Holiday and the fact that the nation’s children had all gone to sleep on time. Amazing what the promise of a present in a sock can do.
By the time I woke up, Blighty had descended into a state of giggly inebriation. Essentially, it seems we are a seaside postcard of a nation which loves to tell jokes and play games. If you weren’t experiencing the horrors of Gatwick airport with a single working toilet, or freezing cold in a house stranded without power, which in both cases must have been ghastly, then everyone was having a laugh, playing Twister, shouting out cracker jokes and watching Toy Story 3. Or perhaps, not, according to one poor soul who tweeted “Dad’s idea of fun on Christmas Day; watching a BBC News doc on archery.”
Highlights on the thread #joinin, which was inspired by the comic Sarah Millican for people who might be alone, included “My dad has just farted on my foot”, “Whoever cries first at Toy Story 3 has to down their glass of booze” and my favourite; “Little Nephew just shot himself in the eye trying to work out why his new Nerf gun wasn’t working.” Anyone who was alone on Christmas Day (and had access to the internet) was encouraged to #joinin. It was a warmhearted phenomenon, one of those things which seemed to flower organically without any overt direction. It didn’t lack point, however. Plenty of people testified that it helped them feel loved and part of a community. Is this not what Christmas is all about?
Checking Twitter at various intervals (yes, I had my Christmas Day stuff to do as well), was akin to being in a cloud hovering above a nation going the whole hog alongside vats of alcohol and groaning tables of food. And loving it, and loving each other. The belief system of Christmas, expressed in less than 140 characters. People breaking the rules, not giving a damn, eating far too much, being saucy, crying over films. Grannies, getting plastered. Women in underwear, putting glasses of champagne between their breasts. Someone posted a picture of their Christmas present. It was a hardback biography, Young Prince Philip, hollowed out to contain a bottle of Bell’s whisky. Can you imagine anyone in France doing that?
If booze is big, Chocolate is massive. Bigger than church, bigger than The Queen’s Message, bigger even than Hugh Grant (whose performance in Love Actually took a right pasting, in fact the whole of Love Actually took a complete and utter pasting, and the bewildering Doctor Who Christmas Special didn’t do much better, either). We all love our chocolate. GEM Medical student, forced to revise “puberty and fertility” for her upcoming exams while “32 family members” were carousing downstairs, took 48 Jaffa Cakes to her room for comfort. Snuggling down with a tin of Roses in front of the TV was the order of the day, while Quality Street enjoys something of a national obsession. Strawberry, green triangle, the orange one, the lot. Apart from Bonnie Tyler, who is holding out for a Hero (geddit?).
The waggish ITV News correspondent Damon Green escaped the accusations of doing something horrendous in bed after “forensic examination proves ‘fecal matter’ to be Quality Street.” Green, quite a serious chap on screen, appears to have had a rather exciting Christmas all round. After the Quality Street incident, he attempted to use a Vajazzle kit on his person, commenting quite rightly that there is nothing in the box which states that men can’t have a go. “And yet, I am subject to criticism”, he mourned, giving rise to a wave of jokes about GlitterBall, feminist oppression and so on.
By the time I got up on Boxing Day, it was all over bar the turkey sandwiches. Kathy Lette, about to watch the start of the Sydney/Hobart yacht race, said her liver was about to fly the flag of surrender. Sue Barnes, 54, had got engaged. Lots of people had hangovers. The Boxing Day “triangle” of kitchen, bathroom and bedroom was discussed. There was a LOT of farting going on, due to “excessive sproutage”. And everyone was eating Quality Street for breakfast. People of the United Kingdom, I love you. Happy New Year.